Great Britain

Police release CCTV of man after mum-of-two, 45, found ‘strangled and bludgeoned to death’ in bush outside school

POLICE have released CCTV of a man they're hunting after the body of a mum was found in a bush outside a school by a dog walker.

It's feared mum-of-two Maria Jane Rawlings, 45, was strangled and bludgeoned to death in Little Heath, Romford, east London.

Cops believe she was attacked while walking along Barley Lane towards the A12 after leaving Kings Georges Hospital in Goodmayes, Ilford on May 3.

Her body was discovered with serious head and neck injuries near a school the next day in Little Heath, Romford at 2pm the following day.

The mum of two daughters lived in the Chelmsford area.

A post-mortem gave a preliminary cause for Maria's death as neck compression and possible blunt force head trauma.

Officers investigating the murder have released footage and still images of a man they would like to identify.

Detective Chief Inspector David Hillier said man was travelling on a 364 bus towards Dagenham at approximately 00.16hrs on 4 May.

“I would urge anyone who recognises this man to contact police immediately,” said DCI Hillier, who’s leading the investigation.

“We are carrying out a fast-paced investigation and I believe this man may have significant information to help us with our enquiries.

“If anyone sees this man, I would ask them not to approach him but to call 999.”

A bouquet of flowers was today placed next to some police tape tied to a wooden post off Barley Lane, close to a busy junction with the A12.

'MUMMY, I LOVE YOU'

Her devastated family today placed flowers next to a bush where Maria's body was found.

One bouquet read: "Mummy. I love you now, forever and always. In this s*** world you made things brighter.

"Forever my angel. Your big baby."

A message from her grandsons read: "Nanny, we love you soo much, we will never forget you. Your boys."

I believe this man may have significant information to help us with our enquiries.

Detective Chief Inspector David Hillier

Another note read: "I can’t believe this has happened. I love you so much, please be at rest."

Housewife Amina Ali, 35, who lives opposite, said police closed the street on Tuesday and forensic investigators were on scene.

She said: "It's been quite traumatic. It's usually such a nice quiet area.

"I walk past that shrubbery every day to get to school and back. It was a shock for us."

DCI Hillier said his team "are working around the clock" in order "to establish what happened to Maria" and appealed to the public for help.

"Her family are understandably distraught and we are doing all we can to help them as they begin to come to terms with their loss," said the officer.

"Now I am asking for the public to help us. I want to hear from anyone who knew Maria and knows about where she had been and who she had been associating with.

"Have you seen her in the area in the company of another person? Had you recently heard or seen a disturbance or struggle in the area but did not think it significant at the time?

"You might have dash cam or doorbell footage that could have captured her – please think carefully and, if you can help, contact police.”

The discovery of Maria's body has sent shockwaves through the local community and cops have beefed up patrols.

Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman said “I understand the concerns around safety that will arise from this, particularly from women, and we have increased patrols in the area from our local policing teams.

"Community safety remains a high priority and I urge anyone who has any concerns to speak to my officers when you see them or contact us.”

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